“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
The first two English missionaries who attempted to reach the inhabitants of the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific were killed and eaten by the cannibals only a few minutes after they arrived. For some time after that, no one else was willing to go there with the gospel. Finally, in 1858, John Paton and his wife determined to risk the dangers to reach the lost of those islands. One of the elders of the church discouraged the effort, warning, “You will be eaten by cannibals!” John Paton responded, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms.”
The world tells us that we should cling to our lives and do everything possible to defend them. But God’s call for us is different. He values the eternal over the temporal, and He is not looking for people to be focused on this life. The Christian life is not about being safe and comfortable; it is about investing in the eternal, and that requires self-denial and sacrifice. Taking up the cross to follow Jesus is a descriptive metaphor. Dr. Curtis Huston used to say, “A crucified man has no plans of his own for the future.” Rather than focusing on how we can get the most for ourselves, like Jesus we should focus on how we can give the most to others.
If we care about what God cares about and make it our priority, there will be great eternal rewards.